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Posts Tagged ‘Travel Tips’

USAirways Says “So Long”

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USAirways Merger Completed

USAirways & American Merger Completed

USAirways & American Merger Completed

The merger between USAirways and American Airlines has been completed. On Oct. 16, 2015 USAirways will cease to exist.

To recognize the soon-to-be-defunct company’s founding year, historic flight US1939, will depart from Philadelphia at 10:05 a.m., making stops in Charlotte, Phoenix and San Francisco. Then, it will depart SFO at 9:55 p.m., marking the last flight to operate under the brand USAirways.

 Travel Tips

If you are flying out the weekend of Oct 16th, your flight will be under American Airlines.  Things will probably be a little shaky during the next few weeks. Here’s some advice to help you during this transitional period.

  • Arrive at the airport early.
  • Have patience – Many employees will be using a new, unfamiliar system.
  • Verify your terminal. It may have changed if USAirways and AA had been using terminals in different locations.
  • Check, then re-check your gate. Access to certain gates may have changed as a result of the merger.
  • Check in on line whenever possible to minimize waiting in long lines.
  • If checking your bags, pay your fee on line to reduce long waits at the kiosk or counter.

To USAirways, so long and thanks for the memories!

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Top 5 Travel Tips of Savvy Travelers

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Top Travel Tips for Savvy Travelers

Savvy travelers know the top travel tips to use to grab great deals and avoid the maddening crowds. Now, you can too.  You should use these travel tips to make your next vacation planning experience a lot smoother.

Travel Tip - Travel during Non-Peak Times

Travel Tip – Travel during Non-Peak Times

5. Travel During Off-Peak

Traveling on off-peak days of the week and off-peak times allows you to take advantage of better fares. You’ll also have a better chance of not fighting over the armrest with fewer people on the planes. You may even get to snag a great seat typically reserved for elite-status airline members only.

Plan your weekend getaway for a Thursday through Sunday or Friday through Monday. You can spend the added flight savings on fun activities and dinners out in the city you are visiting.

4. Vacation during Shoulder Season

When planning a vacation to the Caribbean, Bali or Hawaii, avoid peak travel season. Also, keep in mind snowbirds will be trying to escape their frozen tundra hometowns, making reservations harder and more expensive to come by. A good travel agent will help you plan your vacation during non-peak travel times.

Travel Tip - Avoid Foreign Travelers' Peak Travel Seasons

Travel Tip – Avoid Foreign Travelers’ Peak Travel Seasons

We took a Caribbean cruise during the first two weeks of December. The following week, the same two-week cruise cost twice as much.

Savvy travelers consider the travel patterns of foreigners. Japanese, German, Canadian and British tourists travel extensively and may be driving up rates during certain months.  Also, if you don’t have school-age children, then avoid summer and school breaks, especially Spring break.


3. Get Email Notifications

Pick a few airlines and hotel brands you like, then join their loyalty membership programs. If you have traveled on a certain airline or stayed at a hotel chain, then you’re already ahead of the game. Simply, sign up for email notifications from these companies. You should do this about eight months out from your departure date.

If you want to keep these emails separate from your others, set up a unique email account just for these offers.

Travel Tip - Snag Luxury Accommodations by Going Direct

Travel Tip – Snag Luxury Accommodations by Going Direct

2. Travel Mid-day

Schedule your flights during the middle of the day. First, you’ll avoid the morning rush. Secondly, you’ll get to spend a bit more time enjoying your vacation. Photographers love taking pictures during the early morning hours. Heading out for a quick photo shoot before leaving for the airport may give you an opportunity to capture those final vacation memories.


 1. Go Directly to the Source

Rates vary wildly at hotels, especially at luxury properties. In January, we traveled to Las Vegas.  A major technology conference was in town through Thursday. When planning the getaway, I called our desired hotel, the Wynn, inquiring about rates.  The rack rate was starting at $625 per night through Thursday. So, on Thursday night, we stayed at a hotel a block off The Strip, then moved to The Wynn from Friday through Monday at an average nightly rate of $325 per night, a savings of almost 50%.

In addition, you can call the hotel manager and ask for the seasons or months that will have lower occupancy rates, with the idea of landing a deal during these slow times. You may also increase your odds of scoring a room upgrade.


Source: Conde Nast Traveler

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Paradise in Languedoc-Roussillon

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UNESCO Sights in the South of France
South of France Countryside

South of France Countryside

With over 300 days of sunshine, abundant gastronomy choices, rich culture, and some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, the Languedoc-Roussillon region is a must-see destination when visiting France. Frequently overlooked for ljaunts into metropolitan attractions, the south of France has much to offer.  In addition, for wine lovers,little-known yet, high-quality affordable wine can be easily found.


The region boasts six UNESCO World Heritage sites.

  1. City of Carcassonn
  2. The Canal du Midi
  3. The Pont du Gard
  4. The Vauban fortresses of Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis
  5. The Saint-Jacques-de-Compostella Pilgrimage Routes
  6. The Causses and Cévennes

Although these names may be difficult to pronounce, it would be more difficult for you to miss out on visiting these extraordinary historical sites.   Do not return home from the south of France without enjoying the Languedoc-Roussillon region.

City of Carcassonn

Carcassonne is medieval walled city built between the 12th and 14th centuries. It provided a perfect backdrop for the movie Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.  With 52 towers and two concentric walls,  it is an impressive fortress.

Your best photographic shots should include the Narbonne Gate, The Lists where the jousts took place and La Vade Tower.


The Canal du Midi

UNESCO labeled it, ” one of the modern era’s most extraordinary achievements and a work of art”. The Canal du Midi  is a series of 328 navigator waterways running through France that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea.

Pierre-Paul Riquet is responsible for driving this vision that is comprised of locks, aqueducts, tunnels and bridges, spanning nearly 1,200 miles.  In 1662, at the age of 53 he embarked upon that challenging feat. It became his life work. Unfortunately, Riquet died a year prior to its completion in 1681.  Thomas Jefferson cruised the canal in 1787.


Pont du Gard


Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct that was used to transport drinking water to the residents of Nîme. This massive engineering structure is 48 ft across and rises more than 900 ft high. After spending an afternoon here, you’ll understand why it is France’s most visited ancient monument.

It is estimated over 50,000 tons of limestone, from the nearby quarry was used in its construction.  No mortar was used. Instead, blocks were expertly cut to join together perfectly using only friction.

The grounds include an exhibition that discusses the Roman civilization, the building of the bridge and aqueduct.  There’s a museum,  botanical garden and quarry.


Villefranche-de-Conflent and Mont-Louis

In 2008, these two Catalon sites were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Monument list. The Count of Cerdagne founded the medieval town of Villefranche-de-Conflent in 1090. The King of Aragon started a remodel in the 14th century. However, it was Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, a prominent military engineer, who completed the fortress in the 17th century.

The citadel of Mont-Louis is the highest fortress in France. This mid-17th century  fortified town was also created by Vauban.  Surprisingly, many of the ramparts are still in tact.


Pilgrimage Routes

The final resting place of The Apostle St. James was discovered around the 813. Visitors enjoy taking this Pilgrimage walking tour  that is dotted with churches and religious landmarks. There are four routes across Europe that lead to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostella, located in northern Spain.  Two of these routes cross the Languedoc-Roussillon region.


Causses and Cévennes

The agri-pastoral region that has all four types of type of pastoral systems found around the Mediterranean:

  1. Agro-pastoralism
  2. Sedentary pastoralism
  3. Silvi-pastoralism
  4. Transhumance

The aim of the natural park system is to maintain century-old farming activities while addressing the environmental, economic and social issues of today. This cultural tradition, based on distinctive social structures and local breeds of sheep, is reflected in the structure of the landscape, especially the patterns of farms, settlements, fields and water management.


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Top 5 Travel Apps

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Phone Travel Apps

Travel Apps

I’m not much of a techie, however I do like gadgets that improve the quality of my life. I really enjoy using travel apps. So with fall pretty much in full swing, people without school-age children are hitting the road and the air. I thought I should share some of the travel apps I’ve used that helped me navigate airports and TSA, as well as to get around a city. These are my top five travel apps:


Fine Dining at the Airport

Fine Dining at the Airport

1. Gate Guru – I’ve used this app a few times and it’s worked beautifully. Most recently, I’ve used it at Miami international Airport to locate a restaurant that had been recommended to me. I also used it in the Houston airport to find a restaurant that served good Texas barbecue. In addition, it helps you navigate unfamiliar airports and gives you information on dreaded checkpoint lines.




Few English-speakers outside Paris

2. Google Translate: I should’ve used this more on our trip to France. Contrary to rumor, the French were very nice. After addressing them in French, they would begin speaking to us in English. I think they appreciated the effort; and I suspect they couldn’t bear to hear me slaughter their language anymore. I should’ve used it on our visit to Epernay, but another French patron came to our rescue and translated our lunch order to our non-English speaking waitress. On the occasions I used it, the translation feature worked fine.

It’s supposed to translate up to 70 languages, so I know that is going to cover the majority of the countries of my top 50 destinations list, so hopefully it will do the same for you.


3. My TSA – This app is perfect for those who do not have TSA pre-check status. It’ll help you keep your stress levels down by allowing you to check airport status and wait times at security checkpoints. And for those who do not travel frequently, there is a quick-reference list of items you may bring in your carry-on luggage.


4. Wi-Fi Finder: This app is critical when traveling internationally. Unless you are traveling on business, data roaming charges are outrageous, which makes staying in contact with those back home expensive. This app helps you locate Wi-Fi hotspots near your location, which avoids data roaming charges.


5. Text+: I first heard about this app from a couple of friends who were traveling abroad. It allows you to send and receive texts for free. Provided you have a Wi-Fi connection, you can text family and friends back in the States at no charge, thereby avoiding your plan’s data roaming charges. Also, it’s a good way to check in with your children, grandchildren or other family members or stay in contact with your pet sitter.


These apps are available for IPhone and Android phones and tablets. I hope my top 5 travel apps work as well for you as they did for me.

So tell me. What are some of your favorite travel apps?



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TSA PreCheck to Expand

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 Trusted Travelers Win

TSA Checkpoint

TSA Checkpoint to Become Easier

The U.S. Travel Association and the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) offered support for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new TSA PreCheck initiative.

The initiative will expand the ability to identify low-risk, trusted travelers and provide alternative ways for air travelers to apply for expedited screening


“This will allow new and more convenient ways for business travelers to enroll in TSA PreCheck. For example, we are hopeful that group enrollments will soon be performed at places of business, versus individual enrollments at TSA facilities,” GBTA executive director and COO Michael W. McCormick said.

“This private-sector solution is a better, more efficient use of resources while still maintaining an emphasis on safety and security, which is of the utmost importance to GBTA,” McCormack said.

“Thanks to the new TSA PreCheck Private Sector Pre-Screening initiative, more Americans who do not pose a security threat will be able to apply for expedited airport screening, making our skies more secure and travelers happier,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.


Less Waiting, More Trust

The new initiative leverages private industry best practices to identify and pre-screen low-risk, trusted travelers, providing an alternative method to apply for expedited screening beyond direct enrollment sites, Dow noted.

After the private sector pre-screening process has determined a traveler’s TSA PreCheck eligibility, TSA will also conduct a security threat assessment, U.S. Travel noted.

“By safely increasing the opportunity for enrollment in TSA PreCheck private sector pre-screening will help make more Americans eligible for trusted travel while strengthening security measures. This is more evidence that with innovative policymaking, security and passenger convenience can both win,” Dow said.

Visit www.ustravel.org or www.GBTA.org

Source: Article taken from Travel Agent Central Magazine

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Explosives in Santiago

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Be Aware while in Santiago

Danger can Happen Quickly

Be Vigilant of Dangerous Situations

Travelers and residents have been asked to be extra vigilant as they move around the capital city of Santiago.  This request comes after seven people were injured on Monday when an explosive device detonated in a crowded subway station.  Authorities are viewing it as a terrorist act given the placement of the bomb at a fast-food restaurant near a popular shopping district in Las Condes.



No Travel Warnings Issued
Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile with Andes Mountains

Chile is one of the safest countries in South America.  Extreme acts of violence are quite rare. Recently,  President Michelle Bachelet has seen a drop in her popularity.  So the escalation in acts of violence may be the result of discord among anarchists groups. However, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the bombings.

There have been no travel warnings by the US Embassy, although there has been a rise in the number of explosives in Santiago. As such, if you are traveling to the Santiago region, you should increase your awareness while moving around the city center. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind when you are traveling.


Previous Acts of Violence

Back in July, an explosive device denoted outside a church but thankfully no one was hurt.  Another device was nearby but authorities were able to defuse it.  According to ABC News, at least 28 bombs have been found across Santiago so far this year. Many have not exploded while others have caused injury. Authorities have also reported an increase in the number of fires set to public transportation vehicles. Due to the upsurge in occurrence and the randomness, the potential harm to citizens is a concern.


Know Before You go

If you will be traveling to Santiago, then you should check the US Department of State website for travel advisory updates.

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Money-saving Vacation Tips

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Vacations are Becoming More Expensive

Airborne Plane from inside Airport

Everyone is Taking to the Skies

Have you tried pricing air for a Summer or Fall vacation?  If you have, then you know that the prices are sky high.  Why are airline prices so high?  One word: Demand. Using money-saving vacation tips will help you score the trip of your dreams.

The demand for flights is on the rise.  This coincides with the increase in gasoline prices.  So the problem is not solved by driving.    According to the International Air Transport Association, demand for flights is expected to increase through 2017.  Ouch!

In 2013, airlines carried more than 3 billion passengers.  By 2017, that figure is projected to rise to 3.91 billion.

Hotel Bed n Pillows

More Hotels Needed due to Demand

Also, hotel construction was considerably slower during the last recession.  Construction has only recently returned to 2009 levels. This means as demand increases, the available inventory of rooms is unable to keep pace with the number of travelers. You end up with too few rooms for too many vacationers.

So, what’s a would-be vacationer to do?  Use some of these money-saving vacation tips to help you keep your travel costs in check.

  • Book Early – Decide where you’d like to go on vacation, then book the trip.

    Booking Airline Tickets

    Be Prepared to Book

  • Alerts – Sign up for price alerts from your preferred airline carrier.  Then, be ready to book immediately if you see a bargain.
  • Travel Agent – Contact your travel agent and find out what destinations offer the best pricing.  Then, your agent can plan and book your vacation based on their knowledge of pricing deals, popularity of various destinations and special offers from their list of top suppliers.


Flexible Travel Dates

Aim for Flexible Travel Dates

  • Flexibility – Whenever possible, try to schedule a range of dates for vacation.  If you have a bit of flexibility with your departing and returning dates, you may be able to take advantage of slower than normal periods where hotels and airlines offer discounts on destinations and flight, respectively.


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Safety Tips When Traveling

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Traveler Checklist

Traveler Checklist

This is part 3 of 3 in a series on safety tips when traveling to dangerous areas.  These tips also apply to emergency situations that may arise unexpectedly while you are on vacation. For Part 1 –  Travel Safety in Dangerous Countries and Part 2 – Safety Tips When Traveling Overseas, you may click here.

Traveling aboard can be quite the adventure. Unfortunately, it sometimes becomes more than you bargained for. For whatever reason, you have decided to visit a region that is prone to some form of safety concerns. This can range from political turmoil to visits to cities with high-crime rates. If you fall into any of these categories, you should use these crucial tips for staying safe.

1. Carry passport photocopies – Make photocopies of your passport, as well as copies for all of your traveling companions. If someone gets separated from the group, then you will have a photo to show to the local authorities. For better accuracy, make the copies in color.

Make Copies of Your Passport

Make Copies of Your Passport

  • Also, on the back of the copy, note personal information including the passport holder’s, height, weight, hair color, eye color and any other identifying marks or traits. You may need to give this copy to the authorities if someone in your group is missing.

2. Access the Risk – Check the U.S. Department of State website prior to leaving, as well as during your stay. This site allows you to enter country-specific information regarding your travel plans.

  • You should check for travel warnings that may result in trip cancellation due to dangerous situations.
  • Travel alerts disseminate information on possible threats that may occur during your visit.

3. Register with the U.S. Embassy – You should enroll in STEP established by the U.S. Department of State. The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program notifies you via email with the most current information regarding citizen protests, uprisings, coups d’états, terrorists’ threats, civil war or other acts of violence.  Once you enter your travel itinerary and contact information, it will be possible for the U.S. Embassy to notify you in case of an emergency. This is a free service. Some people may be hesitate to give heir personal information to Big Brother. However, if all hell breaks loose during your vacation, you will be thanking your lucky stars you did. The authorities cannot help you if they can’t find you.

Purchase Travel Insurance

Purchase Travel Insurance

4. Purchase Travel Insurance – If you are on your vacation but then a situation arises that cuts your trip short, you may have to return home early. This is a perfect reason why travel insurance can be so important.

  • If you need to cancel or reschedule your vacation, an insurance policy will help lessen your disappointment. This is one time when you actually need to read the terms and conditions of your policy. Policies vary widely be company; so read them carefully and consult with your travel agent to determine what situations or occurrences are covered.
Respect Muslim Customs

Western Woman Should Dress Conservatively

5. Adhere to Local Customs – Do not try to force your personal beliefs or opinions on the local people. You may think certain customers are restrictive, cumbersome or downright foolish. Familiarize yourself with their laws and don’t think by loudly announcing your American citizenship this will keep you out of jail. You are guest in this country.

  • Remember the Aretha Franklin song, Respect. Refrain from insulting their culture by ignoring the local customs. Be sure your clothing choices reflect the cultural mores, especially women. Dress conservatively if necessary and behave as though you received some home training as a child. Don’t be the “Ugly America.”

6. Leave the Bling Home – In many countries, Americans and other citizens of western cultures are considered to be wealthy. And frequently, by their standards, you may very well be wealthy. The local people don’t know that you had to save for three years to take this vacation. In their eyes are a rich.

  • So, ladies leave the diamond earrings you got for your anniversary in the jewelry box back home.
  • Gentlemen don’t bring the bling-bling, Rodeo Drive watch you purchased with your bonus check. You’ll only draw attention to yourself and increase your odds of being victimized

7. Bring a “fake” wallet – Inside your secondary wallet, place a few denominations of the local currency, those sample credit cards or ID card offers you get in the mail from AARP, Sierra Club, or another such item.  In place of your name, these read, “Joe Sample”  or “Your Name Here”, but they have the feel and thickness of a real credit card.  To a mugger, at first glance these items inside your “wallet” will appear to be legitimate.  The idea is the toss it to your right and take off running to your left.

Pickpocket in a Crowd

Pickpockets are Clever & Advantageous

Hopefully, the only stories you’ll get to share from vacation or business travel will be fun times sightseeing, eating and drinking or enjoying the local attractions.  But, if circumstances unexpectedly change for the worse, don’t hesitate to err on the side of caution.  And use your sixth sense.  If it feels uncomfortable, then don’t do it.  Always use your common sense when you on vacation; and don’t take unnecessary chances.  And, don’t think it can’t happen to you.




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Travel Safety when Overseas

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Safety Essentials when Traveling Abroad

This is the second part of the three-part series on travel safety when you go abroad.

Danger can Happen Quickly

Unexpected Dangers when Traveling

You’re probably thinking that you just won’t go to any of country that is unsafe or has a questionable political situation.  Then, you won’t have to worry about your safety concerns. You can just go about your day as though you  were in your home city.  It’s not anything you’d ever have to worry over.  besides, travelers would not deliberately place themselves in harms way, right? Well, perhaps they don’t have a choice. Travel safety is a serious matter. A disturbance could happen anytime, anywhere.

Here are some likely situations that could result in you traveling to a dangerous region, unintentionally.

  • You may work for a multi-national corporation with offices located around the world. Your boss has asked you to take a business trip overseas. You arrive in the country and head to the facility. However, your driver has informed you that striking workers have blocked the bridge that takes you to your company’s plant.  It’s the only route.  Tensions have risen to the point that police have been called and then violent demonstrations break out. So now you are unable to get to this international office to work.
  • Tensions Rise

    Government Instability

    You have decided to take a vacation to an emerging country. You may be seeking an off-the-beaten path vacation or engaging in volunteer work. While you are visiting, an unexpected event happens that puts you smack dab in the middle of the chaos. You wanted an adventure but rebels in the streets shooting machine guns was not on the list.

  • An uprising could cause travel delays

    An Uprising Could Endanger You

    You are vacationing in a lovely, quiet destination, and then an international incident occurs in another part of the world. Worldwide, airports shift into attack mode, increasing their alert procedures. As a result, flight delays and cancellations cause havoc with international travel; the authorities cancel events at large venues, and curfews are instituted. So much for your peaceful getaway.

  • You teach English in a foreign country. You love the work but begin to notice a change in attitude toward you from many locals when you walk about. You’re not sure what has changed but there is a noticeable anti-American sentiment of late. You start feeling a bit leery when going out to the markets and shops so you ask your native friends to go with you whenever you leave your apartment.

In the last of our 3-part series, I’ll share safety tips that can help you manage if a dangerous situation arises when you are traveling.

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Travel Safety in Dangerous Countries

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Safety Essentials for Travel to Dangerous Regions

Terrorism Presents a Danger to Travelers

Terrorism Incidents Creates Unpredictable to Travelers

If you travel frequently enough, you are bound to have situations arise that may be alarming. The world is not always a safe place; and some parts are downright dangerous. Extreme examples include political protests, terrorist attacks and violent clashes between police and demonstrators. In some countries, danger can be all too common.

  • In many European cities such as Italy and Spain, tourists are frequent targets for pickpockets and muggings.
  • In countries that border the Mediterranean, for example France or Greece, certain races, religions and ethnic groups have been victims of personal assaults.
  • In parts of the Caribbean, especially Jamaica, as well as many countries in West Africa, people who are perceived to be gay, lesbian or transgendered have been attacked or killed.
  • In the Middle East, gender-based violence is not uncommon.

    Gay Couples Must use Caution

    Gay Couples Beware

North America is not without its own safety issues.

  • Travelers in the United Sates fall victim to unethical taxi drivers, random drive-by shootings or general acts of armed robbery and theft.
  • You may get caught in the crossfire a drug war or be exposed to kidnapping or theft in Mexico and throughout Central America.

So what is a traveler to do?

Whether you are traveling to European cities, the Middle East, Africa or metropolitan areas in North America, you should use good judgment, common sense and become informed.

When I as in Paris, I really wanted to go to a jazz club. So we got dressed and took the metro, transferring once.  When we arrived at the metro stop, we exited the subway only to discover that the neighborhood was fairly deserted and quite rundown. It was late at night and the walk to the jazz club was about half a mile. After assessing the situation, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk. We regrettably, re-entered the metro station and headed back to our apartment.

Think about Your Safety

Think about Your Safety when Traveling

Some friends had booked a Nile cruise that was scheduled to depart during the height of the violent clashes and riots in Egypt. They did some research, discussed the risks and then reached a conclusion that they would go on the cruise. When they embarked on the cruise, they pretty much had the run of the ship. Approximately, 70% of the other passengers had decided to cancel.

My brother’s friend Bob was scheduled to leave on vacation to Asia several years ago. However, after watching news stories of political unrest and kidnappings, he decided to cancel his trip.

These situations show that everyone is different; so you have to do what is right for you, your family and travel companions.  In part 2 of this 3 part series, I’ll outline some emergency situations you may find yourself in when you travel abroad.



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